At trial, BP denies dithering during response to U.S. Gulf spill

Tue Oct 1, 2013 4:54pm EDT
 
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Dithering and indecision at BP Plc delayed the capping of its Macondo well and worsened the extent of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to allegations by plaintiffs' lawyers at trial on Tuesday that the British company denied.

On day two of the second phase of a trial in New Orleans over billions of dollars in potential fines, witnesses said they were surprised when BP abandoned one proposed method of plugging the well, which would have put a new blowout preventer on top of a similar device.

"It was BP's decision," said Robert Turlak, an engineer from Transocean Ltd who worked on the well-capping team. "We were so close, we'd come a long way ... We had the equipment ready."

It eventually took 87 days to plug the well as a series of different capping methods were tried. By then, millions of barrels of oil had escaped into the sea and fouled coastlines in the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

BP lawyer Paul Collier fended off allegations of indecisiveness, saying the company carefully assessed hazards and discussed how to mitigate risks associated with numerous plugging options.

He also said BP's well-capping team had a mantra of "don't make things worse."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs - which include people affected by the spill, the U.S. government and Gulf states, and former contractors Transocean and Halliburton Co - have sought to show that BP's estimates on the size of the leak were unsubstantiated and complicated its efforts to cap the well.

At one point after the April 2010 spill, BP touted the chances of stopping with leak with a so-called top kill that pumped heavyweight drilling mud into the well. But that did not work - frustrating U.S. officials at the time.   Continued...

 
Dispersed oil floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico waters close to the site of the BP oil spill as Discoverer Enterprise drill ship is seen on the horizon approximately 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana in this May 18, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Hans Deryk/Files